In another showdown between the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the federal government, the association Wednesday in Abuja, said the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, should ‘be held responsible’ for any crisis that befalls the nation’s health sector.
In a statement made available to THISDAY and signed by NMA President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, the association berated the dilly-dally approach employed by the government to derail the implementation of agreement reached between it and the government.
Sequel upon the warning, the NMA said it was planning to embark on another nationwide strike if the government fails to address critical issues reached in the agreement squarely.
The warning to embark on another round of strike by doctors was coming amid disenchantment by citizens against health workers over what they called a “penchant to resort to unnecessary and unwarranted strike action.”
The statement also contradicts NMA position, as some members of NMA had earlier taken a swipe at the actions of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for embarking on strike even when negotiations were still ongoing.
According to him, “on September 2, 2013 the NMA issued a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government of Nigeria to address the issues tabled by NMA. However, based on the understanding reached following the intervention of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, the NMA decided to extend her ultimatum by four weeks at her emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja on September 22, 2013.”
Explaining how the government has veered from the main agreement, the NMA president noted that “following the expiration of the additional four weeks grace granted to the federal government, the NMA again magnanimously extended twice the ultimatum on account of the government’s constitution of a presidential committee and promise to speedily resolve the issues contained in the requests of the NMA.
“Sadly, since the report of the presidential committee was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), only the re-constitution and inauguration of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has been achieved. The attention of the government to other issues bordering on workplace conditions and injustice meted out to doctors in their conditions of service and funding/ infrastructural and equipment upgrade of the health sector has not received any significant attention.
“On account of the foregoing, it may be difficult to guarantee further extension of the grace period and consequently, industrial harmony in the health sector, especially as the December 14, 2013 deadline issued to the federal government to concretely resolves the demands of the NMA draws closer.”
Speaking on the frustration of the NMA, Enabulele, maintained that “efforts by the NMA to engage the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health even at this eleventh hour collapsed following the unserious approach and attitude of the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health who seem to be less bordered about the potential crisis which may erupt in Nigeria’s health sector from Saturday, December 14, 2013.”
On what danger the inactions of government poses to the entire nation, he contended that the association will be left with no other option than to down its tools notwithstanding the untold hardship such actions may bring to patients.
Enabulele further stated that “the NMA most distressingly alerts the entire nation about the imminent collapse of health services across the entire country given the apparent levity and lack of concrete commitment so far exhibited by the government through the Federal Ministry of Health.”